Rasheed Masood, Samajwadi Party's Member of Parliament (MP) from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, will be the United National Progressive Alliance's (UNPA) candidate for the vice president's office, announced the SP leader Amar Singh on Monday.
Speaking at a press conference in Mumbai, Singh said the Left parties had been informed of the decision to field Masood as the candidate for the Vice-Presidential post.
"The Left also informed us that they were supporting Patil for the post of President and in the same way, we informed them of Masood's candidature. We are always in talks with the Left but we understand that it is their political compulsion to support UPA and its candidate,'' Singh said.
The former Union Minister's candidature is unlikely to define the battle-lines for the V-P post. In the electoral college comprising the two Houses of Parliament, the UNPA has a limited share.
But Masood's presence in the fray would serve the UNPA's desire to identify with the minorities in the UP and elsewhere. It will also, as emphasised by the AIADMK's chief Jayalalithaa the other day, help the newly formed eight-party coalition acquire an identity distinct from the UPA and the NDA.
The UPA-Left-BSP combine have a clear majority in Parliament. However, by fielding Masood, the UNPA might have restricted the former's choice to a Muslim candidate or one belonging to some other minority community.
While laying down the criterion for the V-P office, the CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and his CPI counterpart AB Bardhan had betrayed preference for a candidate not aligned with any political party. To that extent, Masood's name fails the target of a consensus between the UNPA and the UPA through the good offices of the Left.
Even otherwise, political observers said, the desire for such a consensus was a mirage, the UNPA being more interested in keeping equi-distance from the combinations led by the Congress and the BJP.
On his part, Masood told the Hindustan Times that elections were not about winning or losing. "It is about fighting for an ideology. We have ideological differences with both the UPA and NDA. So, the idea of the third Front,'' he said.
Masood fought his first election from Saharanpur as an independent in 1974 and lost. Since then he has fought eight Lok Sabha elections from Saharanpur, winning five times.